The Hugh Norris Trail to Wasson Peak is a 4.9 mile hike each way that gains and loses more than 2,100' in elevation. A portion of the trail is created out of the mountain itself. It's a stairway to Heaven!
These stone steps near the beginning of the trail have been around since shortly after the depression that hit the US economy in 1929. They were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. (the CCC)
I've hiked up and down the old steps since 1998 with my old friend George Mitchell.
The summer before last, I was pleased and surprised to find that someone was adding to the staircase.
I don't know why the crew in the 1930's stopped after 1/4 mile or so. Now, though, after a hiatus of 75 years, someone had picked up where they had left off. I noticed the new steps were granite, just like the old ones, but the craftsmanship of the new steps was much better than that of the older set.
It puzzled me. Where had the steps come from? Who had installed them?
Nothing at the trailhead indicated that the trail was now a construction site. The new steps continued before me to the next switchback, and when I reached that point, they continued on up the trail.
I would have expected to see a great stack of granite steps at the trailhead waiting their turn to be placed. I didn't remember seeing anything there. Did they use a helicopter for delivery?
The Clang! Clang! Clang! of a heavy hammer striking striking metal greeted my ears as I rounded a boulder the size of my house. Split pieces of granite littered the sides of the trail.
Off to my left a man was splitting a granite boulder with hand tools. At his feet lay a diamond bladed saw such as I have seen used at commercial construction sites to cut concrete .
To my right, another young man was drilling a straight line of holes along the face of a split boulder.
A third member of the crew straightened up and asked "How do?" "Fine!"
Looking around, I took in the power tools, hand tools, and supplies. Every bit of it had been carried from the trailhead to the point where they were working. I asked how they managed to get this stuff all the way up here. The guy with the vertical drill grinned and explained.
"All this stuff has to be carried up each morning and back down again at the end of the day. So the more stairs we complete, the harder the job gets."
All four work for the national park service. Two of the team do work like this at the Grand Canyon. The other two--apprentices--were learning by doing.
I moved up the trail with a new appreciation for the National Park Service.
You can spend my tax dollars on projects like this all day long.
Did I mention the craftsmanship was outstanding? The inside corners on the switchbacks were back-beveled and the joints were tight. I've seen spiral staircases in model homes that weren't as well done.
If you haven't hiked the Hugh Norris Trail in Arizona's Tucson Mountains, put it on your calendar. This is worth seeing. Come visit us!
Photos © Mike Jones, Tucson, AZ
I'm Mike in Tucson, your preferred Tucson, AZ mortgage lender.